Friday, November 11, 2011


Long time.  I am reading irreligion by John Allen Paulos and came upon a unique chapter called My Dreamy Instant Message Exchange With God.  Here it is.

While writing the last two chapters on the cognitive foibles of humans and the many redefinitions of God, I dreamed I had a cryptic instant message exchange with a rather reasonable and self-effacing entity who claimed to be God.  This is my reconstruction of our conversation.

ME: Wow, you say you're God. Hope you don't take offense if I tell you that I don't believe in you.

GOD: No that's fine.  I doubt if I'd believe in me, either, if I were you. Sometimes I even doubt if I believe in me, and I am me. Your skepticism is bracing. I'm afraid I don;t have much patience for all those abjecy believers who prostrate themselves before me.

ME: Well, we share that sentiment, but I don't get it. In what sense are you God, aside from youe e-mail address - Are you all-powerful? All-knowing? Did you have something to do with the creation of the universe?

GOD: No, no and no, but from rather lowly beginnings I have grown more powerful, I've come to understand more, I've emerged into whatever it is I am, and I know enough not to pay too much attentionto nonsensical questions about the 'creation' of the universe.

ME: It's interesting that you claim to be God, yet use quotation marks to indicate your distancefrom the writings of some of thosw who believe in you.

GOD: I already told you that I'm a little tired of those people. I didn't create the universe, but gradually grew out of it or, if you like, evolved from the universe's 'biological-social-cultural' nature. How about that hyphenated word for quotation marks? You might guess that the quotation marks suggest that sometimes I want to distance myself from some of my own writings.

ME: I like that you're no literalist. Any evidence of irony or humor seems to me to be a good sign. Still, I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that you sort of evolved out of something similar, maybe something like us humans?

GOD: I guess you could say that, except that my background is much more inclusive than that of just you humans. And looking around at what a mess you've made, I'm tempted to say, 'Thank God for that,' but that seems a little too self-congratulatory. Besides, you've done a lot of good things, too, and I've had my share of failure and misadventure, and I'm still learning.

ME: So, you're a bit of an underachieving comedian? And I take it you're a natural being, not a supernatural one?

GOD: Well, yes and no. I'm natural in the sense that any explanation of my provenance, existence, and slow development would be a scientific one. I'm supernatural only in the sense that I'm really rather super. That's not to say I'm super because I aspire to - excuse the term - lord it over you. It's just a straightforward statement of fact that along many dimensions (but not all) I've come to a greater understanding of things than you yet have. So it might be more accurate to say I'm relatively super.

ME: Relatively super, but still a relative. A bit mightier, but not almighty. Right?

GOD: Those are nice ways of putting it.

ME: And believers? As relatively super, you probably see them as pretty ignorant, maybe something like the cargo cultists of the Pacific, picking things to worship without any sort of natural context or much real understanding.

GOD: No, I'm more kindly disposed toward them than that. In fact, I love the poor benighted 'souls.' That last word is intended figuratively, of course.

ME: I'm still confused. Are you, despite being a bit mightier, ever confused about things? Are you ever torn in different directions, not completely certain?

GOD: Oh my God, yes. I'm regularly confused, torn, and uncertain about all manner of things. I can't measure up to all that perfect-God stuff. Makes me feel inferior. Whatever was that Anselm thinking? For example, I wish could constrain the most superficially ardent of my believers and tell them to cool it. Look around and think a bit. Marvel at what you've come to understand and endeavor to extend this scientific understanding. Then again I think, No, they have to figure this out form themselves.

ME: If you're as knowledgeable as you claim, why don't you at least explain to us lower orders the cure for cancer, say.

GOD: I can't do that right now.

ME: Why not? You can't intervene in the world?

GOD: Well, the world is very complicated, so I can't do so yet in any consistently effective way. Still, since I'm actually a part of the world, any future 'interventions,' as you call them, would be no more mysterious than the interventions of a wise anthropologist on the people he studies, people who in turn might influence the anthropologist. Nothing miraculous about entities affeting each other. Nothing easy about predicting the outcomes of these interactions, either, which is why I'm hesitant about interfering.

ME: You've declared you're advanced in many ways, but do you claim to be unique? Do other 'Gods' or other 'a bit mightiers' a bit mightier than you exist? Do other 'super universes' exist? See, I can use quotation marks, too. And where are you? In space? Inherent in other sentient beings? Part os some sort of world-brain?

GOD: Not sure what questions like these even mean. How do you distinguish beings or universes? And in what sense do you mean 'exist?' Exist like rocks, like numbers, like order and patterns, or maybe like the evanescent bloom of a flower? As I said, I'm not even sure I'm God, nor would I swear that you aren't. Maybe God is our ideals, our hopes, our projections, or maybe you humans are all super-simulations on some super yearn engine like God-gle.

ME: The Matrix, the dominatrix, the whatever. Hackneyed, no? Anyway, even if you do exist in some sense, and I'm not buying that, you're certainly nothing like God as conventionally conceived. Do you think there is a God of that sort?

GOD: I know of no good evidence or logical argument for one.

ME: I agree there, but I also suspect most people would find you a pretty poor substitute for that God.

GOD: That's tough, just too, too bad. Something like me is the best they're going to get, and that's if they get anything at all. But as I said, I'm not positive about any of this, so let's forget the God blather for now. If I had a head, I'd have a headache. What do you say?

ME: Okay, thy will be done, if you say so. Let's just listen to some music, assuming you have ears on your non-existent head.

GOD: Yeah. (God laughs.)

ME: Yeah. (I wake up.)

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